Category Archives: Volunteer Bloggers

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Until We Meet Again Grandma

My grandmother passed away on June 6th, 2020. She was 91 years young. She was a God-fearing woman and she spent her entire life serving the Lord and taking care of her family. She raised 3 boys and 3 girls, and had a hand in all of her 18 grandchildren’s upbringings. She has been present in my life from day one. She took me to school. She cooked for me. She cared for me when I was sick. Beside Bible stories, she loved watching the Honeymooners, Matlock, Murder She Wrote, Cojack and Columbo. The classics. Sometimes we would catch a late late movie and watch it together. She talked through the whole movie, trying to guess what would happen next and how it would end. Other than that, she rarely talked about her life. Every so often she would let something slip, but you had to be alert to pick up on it.

As I sit here now and think about her life, she loved children. Not only did she raise her children and her grandchildren, she was a care taker for other families while I was growing up. Every day was Sunday school with her. She sang hymns and taught bible stories. She was a patient and faithful woman. She took her time to care for those in her care. She put her whole heart into it with no complaint.

Many years ago, she shared with me that she had 7 kids. One passed away after birth. I do not recall the details that surrounded the baby’s death i.e. stillbirth, premature birth, but I remember she shared this detail of her life with me. I wonder how she coped. But as I write this and think about it, I know that she would have said to me that she found comfort and peace in God. But I know that she went through that alone. She did not have best friends. She did not have tea parties and get togethers with the girls. She focused on God and family. I know part of this was of her generation and another part of her relationship with God. As woman there is so much we hide from the world. We internalize so much pain and yet smile to the world. To know her and her love for children, I know this was a painful experience, but you would have never known it unless you asked. But she truly had a strong faith that I know she found comfort in her pain. She lived her life in so much love and joy, trying to raise all the children in her care with love, grace and understanding.

There was a time that I did not want children. I did not know how to define family. I was completely tainted by life’s hard balls. I was bruised and hurt by disappointments and abandonment. But when I met my husband, his upbringing was hard and yet he reminded me of my grandmother, someone who did not let life’s hard balls keep him down or destroy his spirit. Being around him, I saw how loving he was to his nieces and nephews, and even his coworker’s kid – he dressed up like Spiderman, climbed over the fence and  and surprised him at his birthday party. I trusted him and our strong foundation helped us get through hard times together.

There is never a parental manual you get with a child or motherhood. Lucky for me, I had a grandmother who was the best care taker. Her strength and compassion about people especially children runs through my veins. As a woman she experienced so much from losing a child to losing her husband to cancer at a young age to take care of her family as the matriarch for the last 35 years. Through the highs and lows, she continued to press forward on her life journey always praying, singing and witnessing. I realize that everyone has a different coping mechanism and it is important to have one in place so we can get through the hard times so I encourage you to review your own coping mechanism and make sure it can help you get through life’s heartaches. My grandmother was a beacon of light her entire life and I will lean on her strength and teachings to help me continue my life journey.

Category : Tracy , Volunteer Bloggers


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A pregnancy loss becomes part of you

No matter at what stage a woman has a miscarriage, the experience is very profound and should not be diminished or dismissed. It remains present in situations when she misses a period or spots unexpectedly. Any deviation from a “normal” cycle, automatically my mind questions, “Am I experiencing a miscarriage?” Since the birth of my second child, I decided not to use birth control. I have PCOS, which contributes to my periods being irregular and heavy. I track my period and it’s on its own schedule now so I am pretty comfortable with my “normal” cycle. Except last month.

When I miscarried three years ago, my body was still in pregnancy mode. I selected to take the pills and let my body naturally remove the baby. Even with my experience with PCOS, this experience was very painful, excessive, and long, but I endured through it. Once my body recuperated, I continued on my fertility journey. But the experience never leaves you and it manifested into anxiety and paranoia during my entire pregnancy. There was a time I didn’t feel any movement and I panicked and went straight to the doctor’s office. When they did the ultrasound, the tech said he was turned away from my belly, mostly towards the bottom of my back, and moving around just fine. Even after the birth of my second son, it’s a lingering feeling. A brief prick in my spirit from time to time.

But last month, while cooking, out of nowhere, I started to bleed profusely and the cramping soon followed. This is not my normal. I know my body. This is not right. I did not share my initial fears with my husband until the third day as I was balled up in a fetal position on the bed. Normally I would have called my doctor and scheduled an urgent appointment, but due to COVID19, my anxiety of the outdoors and unknown froze me. I was scared. Finally I told my husband that I was going through a similar experience like when I miscarried. Being supportive, he said to call the doctor in the morning and he slipped in if it is a miscarriage, he doesn’t want to know. He is so sensitive. I know that was his fears talking.

So in the morning, I spoke with one of the nurses and she advised me to come in asap. She went over the protocols in place that I will need to follow: arrive early, come alone, and wear a mask. When I arrived, I wore my mask and latex gloves. At the pre-check in, my temperature was taken and I answered some preliminary questions. Given the green light to go into the office, I checked in and was immediately seen. After some lab work and an ultrasound, my diagnosis is fibroids. Definitely a concern to address, but I was relieved and I called my husband from the car when I left.

I share this story, although somewhat TMI, I think it’s important that we stay vocal about our health, women’s health. Before my afternoon visit, I told my coworker I was logging off early to go to the doctor and afterwards, I informed her of my diagnosis and opened up with my initial concern that I thought it may be a miscarriage. She then confessed to me that that possibility crossed her mind when I first told her because she too had experienced a miscarriage. Another layer peeled back as we continue to learn more about each other. And this is not my first time sharing an experience with another woman and finding out that we have pregnancy loss in common. It brings a sense of intimacy within a relationship, a heightened level of compassion and trust.

With the added level of social distancing and quarantine, do not allow it to bury you further into aloofness. Pick up the phone. Set up a video chat. Write in a journal. Chat with a friend. Talk with your spouse. Call your doctor. Just don’t stay silent whether in your sadness or pain. Life is still happening to and around us. Every day we are getting older and our bodies are changing. Continue to listen to your bodies and take care. Stay safe.

Category : Tracy , Volunteer Bloggers


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What Plans?

The people who know me best in life know that I am a mix of a confusing group of characteristics. I am an extreme planner. My first pregnancy, I was due in September and already had the maternity ward tour scheduled in May. The nursery was done at the beginning of August. Everything was washed, labeled, and ready to use. Those same people know that I am incredibly disorganized. My kitchen counters and dining room table are full of clutter. I don’t mind it because I tell myself I can easily find something that way.

I found out about my second pregnancy three years ago on May 22, 2017. I was determined that whatever gender this baby was, the theme of their nursery was going to be The Very Hungry Caterpillar. I went to a craft store and sifted through bolts of fabric picking out red, yellow, and green that I would ultimately request my mother in law to sew into a quilt. I went to Kohl’s and found a “Big Sister” shirt for our daughter and some fairly unisex clothes. I planned our baby announcement for 4th of July. I started a Pinterest board for welcoming a second child home and how to deal with sibling rivalry.

And then things happened that I couldn’t have planned for. When I started bleeding, it was incredibly faint. I heard that many women have spotting early in their pregnancy and I was only six and a half weeks along at that point. The pregnancy test was very clear and bright, which I thought meant a strong pregnancy.

I write this post during this time because we are all dealing with things we couldn’t have planned for. Most of us are at home. Some of you are spending your last trimester in solitude, instead of having in person baby showers with family, friends, and food. Some are currently in the fourth trimester, aching for the company of loved ones during these precious times.

What I’ve learned in the last three years since our loss is that we can plan all we want, but sometimes life or a higher power just has different plans for us. There is no shame in grieving the loss as long as you need to. Whether that is the loss of maternity shoots, newborn shoots, baby showers, visitors in the hospital, or the other dozens of things that we now can’t control, disappointment is a valid feeling.

The other thing I’ve learned is that if you don’t allow yourself to have those feelings when they’re happening, they will build and build and explode one day. I still struggle on certain days with meaning (the day we found out, the day we lost, the day I returned the Big Sister shirt) but in those moments, I give myself some grace and allow tears to fall or wine to be consumed.

When we’re dealing with the unthinkable, the only plans we can stick to are the ones where we plan for nothing at all.

Category : Jessica , Volunteer Bloggers


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The Very Unmerry Month of May

We are certainly living through difficult times, perhaps one of the most challenging in history. Covid-19 is wreaking havoc across the world and our country and shows few signs of letting up. With no therapeutics or a vaccine, venturing outside has become frightening. I limit my excursions to early morning walks with my dog Kovu, given that I am a high-risk individual. For the first time since New York’s lockdown, I ventured out with Keith to take in Albany’s tulip fest, albeit from the car. I actually felt carsick from not having ridden in a vehicle for such a long time.

For many, May has always been a difficult month. Mother’s Day and the surrounding festivities can be extremely hard for those who have lost their moms or for moms who have lost a child. It can also be tough for those who, for any number of reasons, did not have the mother they deserved. Mother’s Day often brings a sense of profound loss.

I don’t think it’s a coincidence that May is also Mental Health Awareness Month. We tend to push mental health issues under the rug. Much like certain other illnesses, if you can’t see it, it doesn’t seem to exist. While many experience some depression or feelings of loss during this month, daily life in the face of a pandemic can exacerbate these feelings.

The COVID-19 pandemic has likely brought many changes to how you live your life, and with it, uncertainty, altered daily routines, financial pressures, and social isolation. You may worry about getting sick, how long the pandemic will last, and what the future will bring.

Many are experiencing stress, anxiety, fear, sadness and loneliness. And if you are predisposed to mental health disorders, they can worsen. It’s important to learn self-care strategies and get the care you need to help you cope.

While professional help is certainly available, there are ways you can help lessen stress. Here are some helpful tips recommended by the CDC to managing stress and coping with change in our daily lives:(1).

• Take breaks from watching, reading, or listening to news stories including social media. Hearing about the pandemic repeatedly can be upsetting.
• Take care of your body by taking deep breaths, stretching or meditating; by eating healthy, well-balanced meals; by exercising regularly and getting plenty of sleep.
• Make time to unwind. Start with activities you enjoy like painting, knitting, or reading.
• Connect with others. Talk with people you trust about your concerns and how you are feeling.

For me, sticking to a daily routine has helped keep me busy and away from all the “what if” thinking in this uncertain time. I also try to focus what I can do, not what I can’t. While I am unable to hold my newborn grandson Rory, I am able to see him from a safe social distance. I know his brother Liam is watching over him from above. But most of all, try to stay positive and find the beauty in each day.

1 https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/daily-life-coping/managing-stress-anxiety.html

Category : Deb , Volunteer Bloggers


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Uncertainty

Going into my last month of pregnancy this month is so different than it was last time. Last time I was more relaxed and my only real worry was about my pregnancy and if/when I would bring my baby home, as I truly didn’t believe that she was coming home with us until after we were actually at home with her. 

This time the world has changed so much in the past few months, and we are at home practicing our social distancing. (By we I mean my daughter, 3 years old, and I as my husband is still working outside the home.) 

Now not only do I have the worries about this pregnancy/baby but I also have worries about our family becoming ill and not being able to have my husband with me during labor and delivery. I know that all these precautions are there for a reason and I completely understand them and honestly I am happy they are in place. (I work in health care and am so happy to not have to be working right now because watching all my coworkers go through the daily struggle is heartbreaking.)

Our hospital is allowing one support person to be with you in the hospital during labor, but other than that no visitors allowed. While I am happy that my husband will be able to be there with me, I am also mourning the absence of our daughter coming to the hospital and visiting her new sibling.

I’m also mourning the absence of our families coming to the hospital and meeting our new little one. We have such great memories of both families coming and visiting us the evening when our older daughter was born. It was an extra special Christmas Eve for everyone. Hopefully we will be able to start visiting family soon and we will be able to have people over at our place to visit and share in the joys of our new baby. 

Although all of these things have changed and we have no choice but to continue forward on this path, we are choosing to try and be as positive as possible and we are planning for my daughter to be watched by family members while I am at the hospital giving birth. My husband will be with me during the birth, but most likely my hospital stay will be just baby and I spending time together. One day this will all be a distant memory and maybe we will look back at it and smile with joy of my baby’s birth. 

 

Category : Amanda , Volunteer Bloggers


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Truth is Revealed in the Unknown

I just completed 4 weeks in quarantine with two small boys under 5 while working full time from home. This past Thursday my eldest and I were butting heads all day that by mid afternoon we both needed a time out and I logged off and went to sleep during quiet time. When I woke up I felt like the worst mom for not being able to stay calm and collected while my son had a meltdown. And who can blame him? I think we are all on edge.

Later that night, while video chatting with my sister, she said my hair looked like the Mad Hatter from Alice and Wonderland and I replied, “It surely does feel like I am in a rabbit hole, going deeper and deeper with no end in sight.” There are many rabbit holes that we find ourselves in at different points in our life. In most cases, we are alone in the darkness, but this global COVID-19 pandemic has swallowed us whole and we are all trying to navigate this “new” landscape together. But for some of us, the struggle is ongoing and the pandemic just heightened or resurfaced many of the inequalities and social injustices that are felt and experienced on a regular basis, especially in healthcare.

When my husband and I decided to start our family and realized that after a year of trying unsuccessfully we needed to consult with a professional, his insurance provided infertility coverage. Throughout our seven years of seeking medical help to conceive, I was one of the lucky ones not to have to add the burden of finances to the pile of disappointment, embarrassment, anxiety and loss, just to name a few. But there are many families who do not have the health insurance coverage or finances to pursue this option. I wonder how many started on this path last month just to be laid off and lose the very medical coverage that would help them possibly get close to their dream of conceiving? Or the couple that finally made the decision to pursue fertility treatment just to be faced with another obstacle, COVID-19. Or the woman who after grieving a loss decided to get back up and try again only to lose coverage. It is concerning that just a month in quarantine wiped out 3 years of national employment growth and crippled many health systems. When we live in silos, we cannot see that our pain is shared among millions day to day and this crisis has lifted the curtains exposing a broken system.

For many of us who have experienced a pregnancy loss, it is a silent grieving process even among couples. When there was no heartbeat, I asked how long ago did it stop. The doctor told us maybe a week or more. There was very little growth from the last visit. I chose to take the pills and induce my body to remove my lifeless pregnancy. This was a Friday. And I took the pills that weekend and by Monday I was back at work. Life did not stop. There was no pause. There was no reset button. Plus my eldest son’s birthday was in a week and we decided to move forward with plans for a small get together and a trip to the aquarium.

I look back now and I think I wanted to stay distracted to not focus on what just happened. In our society, we live in the fast lane, working 60+ hours, trying to make that money to enjoy a better life. But when will that ever happen if we cannot slow down and just breathe? On his birthday we went to the aquarium and we were rushing to get back home to be there when the first guest arrived, but we needed to pick up the pizza and the cake. By the time we got to the house, I was completely overstimulated and exhausted and my husband exploded and I went upstairs and just started to cry. Our family and friends were downstairs, unaware of the hurt I was hiding and my husband found me and through the tears I told him how I felt in that moment. We held each other and in our pain we found strength to go back downstairs and celebrate my son’s 2nd birthday.

During this quarantine I realized that we cannot go back to the old normal. We must be able to redefine and modify our existence to address the everyday human realities that we encounter like pregnancy loss. We should be able to grieve. We should be able to take bereavement. We should be able to afford fertility treatment. It is important that we reveal our truths during this time. All the energy it takes to “hide” parts of our lives are now exposed. Our vulnerabilities are uniting us. Our creativity is moving us forward. For me writing and drawing are wonderful outlets to give a voice to an experience or emotion. Taking pictures and videos capture the now and can speak to me differently at each viewing. During this time, it is a challenge to grieve without physical touch, but let’s use our other senses to express our feelings and capture the hearts of many and stay connected. For positive change to happen, we must be accountable for each other. We must take care of each other. We must embrace our joys and heartache together and recognize that when we bind together, our collective strength can move mountains.

 

 

 

Category : Tracy , Volunteer Bloggers


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Pregnancy After Loss: A Letter from Quarantine 

Dear Baby,

Today is my 30th consecutive day of self-quarantine. With the exception of OB appointments and socially distant walks around the neighborhood, both of your parents have spent the last month inside and away from anyone who could potentially spread Coronavirus to our family. It is boring and hard and isolating, but it is imminently worth it.

With our last four pregnancies, we lost our babies not due to anything we did or didn’t do. There was nothing to be done, no action that could keep them safe and sound. With COVID-19, there is something we can do. We can follow social distancing rules – or the extreme version of them necessary for those at increased risk – and do our best to keep you safe in the midst of a global pandemic. It isn’t pleasant, but we are lucky enough to be able to avoid exposure and the potential for complications, no matter how small.  We are taking our first actions as parents in your best interest and putting your needs over our own wants.

This might not be enough. We know of course that regardless of these precautions that we might lose this pregnancy – lose you. The thought is terrifying. But if we do, we will know that we did everything we could to ensure your safety. It is the very least we can do for you.

Pregnancy after loss is hard enough in the best of times. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t hold any resentment about the circumstances and timing of my pregnancy with you. Why now, after nearly 4 years of trying, does our successful pregnancy have to fall during such a challenging and fraught time? In my less graceful moments it feels like a set-up, a personal attack designed to rob me of any joy. We may miss out on a lot of milestones I have dreamed about for far too long: a baby shower surrounded by loving family and friends, professional infant photos, and family visiting us in the hospital to meet you for the first time. But regardless, I am determined to do what I can.

So for the foreseeable future here I am, in our home, alone with my wife and our little family. Hunkering down away from our loved ones in order to keep you as safe as possible. While we can’t know what the future holds, we are hoping to welcome you joyfully in October into a changed but healing world.

Love always,

Mama

Category : Meredith , Volunteer Bloggers


Welcome!

If you’ve come to this blog, it likely means you have suffered a pregnancy loss of some type. We are so sorry you have found yourself here, but hope the stories of life after loss can help you on your road to healing and recovery. Remember, we are all in this together!

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